Getting OTA digital in a "difficult" area

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Mark Booth, Nov 21, 2001.

  1. Mark Booth

    Mark Booth Screenwriter

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    After several weeks of trying to decide which OTA receiver to buy, I finally settled on the Samsung SIR-T150. I purchased mine at a local Sears store. They happily matched B&H Photo's price of $499 (before rebate).
    Reportedly, San Diego can be a difficult area to receive OTA digital channels. 2 of the current channels are broadcast from Mt. Miguel (between Spring Valley and Jamul) in the southeastern part of the county, 1 near the Mexican border and 2 from Mt. Soledad (La Jolla) near the coast. The terrain in much of San Diego county is very hilly. I live in east county just 3 miles from Mt. Miguel. There is a sloping rise (hill) and several homes between me and Mt. Miguel. I'm also down in a little bit of a valley and Mt. Soledad is 18 miles away (as the bird flies) and is NOT line of sight. Since Soledad has the channels I was most interested in (ABC and CBS), I was bit concerned they would be MIA at my place.
    After hooking up my SIR-T150, the first antenna I tried was a Channel Master SMARTenna. It is an omnidirectional antenna and I figured I would start with it and see if I could get away without using a rotor. Once (temporarily) mounted in my attic, it was completely useless. It couldn't pull in even a single channel.
    The next antenna I tried was a Radio Shack 15-2160 UHF Yagi. I mounted it to a 5 ft. mast and, with my wife watching the signal level meter on the SIR-T150, I proceeded to try various locations for the antenna. In the living room. In the attic. On a ladder standing above the roof line. The 15-2160 could pull in both channels at Mt. Miguel (NBC and WB) as well as FOX over near the Mexican border. Singnal strength was about 70% on each (I'm certain that a secure mounting and more precise pointing would have improved that). Unfortunately, both CBS and ABC (Mt. Soledad) were MIA! I couldn't get even the slightest signal. Again, perhaps secure mounting would resolve it?
    The next antenna I tried, despite the assurances from the Radio Shack sales clerk that it would NOT work ("lots of people have tried that antenna for digital and it didn't work"), was the Radio Shack double-bow tie. Standing in my living room and just generally pointing the antenna toward Mt. Miguel resulted in my getting all three southern channels with about 45% signal strength each. Incredible! Even more amazing, standing near a window and pointing toward Mt. Soledad I was able to get a lock on ABC (about 25% signal strength). No CBS... yet.
    Knowing that I could get at least some signal from Mt. Soledad, I went ahead and purchased a Channel Master rotor and antenna preamplifier. I mounted the Radio Shack double-bow tie to a 4 ft. wooden dowel, attached the preamp and rotor and mounted this contraption inside my garage near the peak of the roof (my garage has a better line of sight to Mt. Soledad than does my house, which is blocked by another house taller than mine). Impressively, this little bugger pulls in all southern channels at about 65% signal strength and pulls in BOTH ABC and CBS with about 45% signal strength! All from a little Radio Shack double-bow tie that is intended to sit on the back of your TV.
    Since discovering the success with this setup, I have ordered a Channel Master 3021 UHF antenna. It is a 4-bay bow tie antenna and about 6-8 times the size of the Radio Shack bow tie. The antenna is scheduled to be delivered today. I am hoping to get it mounted sometime this weekend. I'm hopeful that I'll get at least 80-90% signal strength on all channels.
    What I have learned:
    * Depending on where you live, getting OTA signals can be as easy as pie or a pain in the ass! [​IMG]
    * Just because one antenna doesn't work or preforms poorly doesn't mean another might not work better (even a much smaller antenna).
    * Never listen to the claims of a Radio Shack clerk. [​IMG]
    * With the location of my house relative to Mt. Soledad, if >I< can get those channels, just about anyone in San Diego should be able to get 'em, given the right antenna/rotor/amplifier system.
    * Never say never. [​IMG]
    Mark
    P.S. The next two channels for San Diego are KPBS (supposed to go live any day) and KUSI (independent, May 2002). Both transmitters are located on Mt. Miguel, 3 miles from my house! [​IMG]
    And, oh.... digital signals, even those that aren't hi def, are WAY cleaner than what I get from cable. And, of course, hi def is to die for! Jay Leno never looked so good! NYPD Blue almost makes ya want to cry it is so clean! [​IMG]
     
  2. Brian Mello

    Brian Mello Stunt Coordinator

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    Mark, let us know how that CM 4 bay bowtie works for you. I had no luck with that thing no matter where I mounted it. I had to order a Blonder Tongue which costed me a nickel! [​IMG]
     
  3. Mark Booth

    Mark Booth Screenwriter

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    As scheduled, the Channel Master 3021 arrived today. When I got home from work, I couldn't resist the temptation to go ahead and get it installed today. [​IMG]
    With the CM 3021 replacing the RS double-bow tie, I now get:
    NBC & WB (Mt. Miguel): 70-75% signal strength
    FOX (Mexico border): 80-85% signal strength
    ABC & CBS (Mt. Soledad): 60-65% signal strength
    Interestingly, CBS, which is carried on channel 55 here in San Diego, was remapped to channel 8-1 by the Samsung SIR-T150. NBC and ABC both had remapped to their "native" (analog) channel numbers even when I was using the RS double-bow tie. Not so with CBS. I guess I wasn't getting enough signal, or, CBS just activated that feature today?
    These levels are with the CM preamp in place. The one I installed is their Spartan 3 model. 23db gain on UHF. I was not able to find the better quality (and higher gain) Titan UHF-only model in stock anywhere (I'm told they are on backorder from CM). I plan to eventually replace the Spartan with a Titan and see if my levels improve.
    At any rate, I'm now enjoying excellent quality pictures on all available channels. Sound is excellent too, save for ABC which has the "choppy audio" problem, a known bug in the Samsung v1.6 firmware. I already have the v1.63 firmware upgrade files and plan to upgrade my SIR-T150 next week. This should eliminate the choppy audio and I will be completely in digital/hi def heaven! [​IMG]
    Mark
     
  4. Mark Booth

    Mark Booth Screenwriter

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    Yee haw! KPBS digital/hi def went live at 8:00pm tonight here in San Diego! My new CM 3021 is giving me 70-75% signal strength on both KPBS channels (channel 30 remapped to 15-1 and 15-2).
    That's a total of 7 digital channels now broadcasting in San Diego! Life is good! [​IMG]
    Mark
     

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